In the fall of 1940, the Nazis are at the height of their power - France is occupied, Britain is enduring the Blitz and is under threat of invasion, America is neutral and Russia is in an uneasy alliance with Germany. Stephen Metcalfe, the younger son of a prominent American family, is a well known man about town in occupied Paris. He's also a minor asset in the U.S.'s secret intelligence forces in Europe.
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St. Martin's Press
October 27, 2003
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Excerpt from The Tristan Betrayal by Robert Ludlum
Paris, November 1940
The City of Light had gone dark.
Ever since the Nazis had invaded, then seized control of France six months earlier, the world's greatest city had become forlorn and desolate. The quais along the Seine were deserted. The Arc de Triomphe, the place de l'Etoile -- those magnificent gleaming landmarks that once lit up the night sky -- were now gloomy, abandoned. Above the Eiffel Tower, where once the French tricolor rippled, a Nazi swastika flag waved.
Paris was quiet. There were hardly any cars on the street anymore, or taxis. Most of the grand hotels had been taken over by the Nazis. Gone was the revelry, the laughter of evening strollers, carousers. Gone, too, were the birds, victims of the smoke from the burning gasoline during the first days of the German incursion.
Most people stayed in at night, intimidated by their occupiers, the curfews, the new laws that had been imposed on them, the green-uniformed Wehrmacht soldiers who patrolled the streets with their swinging bayonets, their revolvers. A once-proud city had sunk into despair, famine, fear.
Even the aristocratic avenue Foch, the widest, grandest thoroughfare in Paris, lined with handsome white stone facades, seemed windswept and bleak.
With a single exception.
One h'tel particulier, a private mansion, glittered with light. Faint music could be heard from within: a swing orchestra. The tinkle of china and crystal, excited voices, carefree laughter. This was an island of glittering privilege, all the more radiant for its gloomy background.
The H'tel de Ch'telet was the magnificent residence of the Comte Maurice L'on Philippe du Ch'telet and his wife, the legendary and gracious hostess Marie-H'l'ne. The Comte du Ch'telet was an industrialist of enormous wealth as well as a minister in the collaborationist Vichy government. Most of all, though, he was known for his parties, which helped sustain tout Paris through the dark days of the occupation.
An invitation to a party at the H'tel de Ch'telet was an object of social envy -- sought after, anticipated for weeks. Especially these days, with all the rationing and food shortages, when it was just about impossible to get real coffee or butter or cheese, when only the very well connected could get meat or fresh vegetables. An invitation to cocktails at the du Ch'telets' meant an opportunity to eat one's fill. Here, inside this gracious home, there was not a hint that one lived in a city of brutal deprivation.
The party was already in full swing by the time one of the guests, a very late arrival, was admitted by a manservant.
The guest was a remarkably handsome young man, in his late twenties, with a full head of black hair, large brown eyes that seemed to twinkle with mischief, an aquiline nose. He was tall and broad, with a trim athletic build. As he handed his topcoat to the ma'tre d'h'tel, the butler, he nodded, smiled, and said, "Bonsoir, merci beaucoup."
He was called Daniel Eigen. He had been living in Paris off and on for the last year or so, and he was a regular on the party circuit, where everyone knew him as a wealthy Argentine and an extremely eligible bachelor.